Clagett’s Brewery(18BC38)

18BC38 represents a late 18th- to late 19th- century brewery (operating under as many as ten names) and a late 19th- and early 20th- century casket company located near the southeast corner of President and Lombard Streets in the Old Town (or Jones Town) section of Baltimore. The western portion of the site was destroyed by the construction of the Jones Fall Expressway.

18BC38 was the site of a continuously occupied brewery from 1784 to 1880. Portions of the land occupied by the brewery appear to have been “made land”, created by Brian Philpot during the middle of the 18th century. The brewery was located one block east of Jones Falls, a once navigable waterway emptying into the Baltimore Harbor. Philpot sold the land in 1783 to Thomas Peters, who constructed a brewery within a year. Peters continued to run the business until 1807, and acquired partners Edward Johnson Sr. and Jr. in 1796 (Jr.) and 1800 (Sr.). Dr. Edward Johnson Sr. retained his interest in the business, running it with other partners from 1808 to 1819, when it was sold to Eli Clagett. An insurance policy taken out in 1808 shows that the complex included two two-story malt houses with granaries on the second floors, a two-story brick dwelling with a detached brick kitchen and a back building attached to the east side of the house.

A fire destroyed the brewery complex in 1812, with loss estimated at $80,000 (Hartley 1983). With assistance from the insurance money, the brewery was rebuilt by May of 1813.

It is quite likely that the foundations and walls of the original late 18th-century brewery were reused in the rebuilding process, since the dimensions of the granaries and brewhouse insured in 1815 match those insured in 1808 (Medusa). George John Brown purchased the brewery for $65,000 in July, 1813 (Hartley 1983) and is shown in city directories as a brewer between the years 1814 to 1816. Elie Clagett purchased the brewery in July of 1819 (Hartley 1983) and the family operated here until the death of William Clagett in 1879.

By the early 1870s, the character of the neighborhood had become largely industrial (Anderson BCUA report). In 1880, the property was sold and became the Maryland Burial Case Company. In 1904, it was sold to the National Casket Company of New York and this company retained interest until 1970, when the property was sold to the city. In the 1950s, the eastern part of the property became a parking lot. The complex was demolished in the early 1960s and President Street bisected the complex. Two parking lots were constructed and the eastern parking lot was the site of the 1983 excavations. In July 2009, Fairfield Inn & Suite Marriott Hotel opened on the site of the old Baltimore Brewery.

The first archaeological investigations at 18BC38 were undertaken in the spring of 1983 in connection with the proposed Boulevard extension for I-83. Four backhoe trenches were excavated and smaller deep (approx. 9 ft below ground surface) units were placed within those trenches as well. Findings included: a foundation believed to possibly be the corner of the Malthouse on Granby Street, a massive stone wall thought to be an early 19th-century retaining wall along Jones Fall (Feature 35), a dump of ceramic and glass bottles along the wall (Feature 34), and stone paving adjacent to the stone wall (Feature 36). Also discovered, but not given a feature designation, was another bottle dump revealed through trenching (Cosans 1983:94). The bottles appeared to date to the early 19th century and included a marked Rickett's bottle with a date of 1821, several rough pontil scars and bottle profile shapes from the early 19th century (Cosans 1983:97). Feature 34 was encountered during machine trenching. The feature in which the dense concentration of bottle glass was found was adjacent to and extending about one foot out from the retaining wall (Feature 35) and may represent a builder's trench that was filled with breakage from the brewery. A total of 390 artifacts were recovered from Feature 34 and over 90% of the assemblage was comprised of olive green bottle glass dating largely to the third quarter of the 19th century (Cosans 1983:96).

Later that same summer, additional excavations took place under the direction of the BCUA (Comer et al. 1983). Over 43,000 artifacts were recovered from this work, with over 20,000 of the artifacts recovered from a late 18th- to early 19th-century privy (c. 1783-1810) associated with the Peters family (Akerson and Bisacquino 1998:7). Other artifacts were recovered from a residential cellar and from foundations associated with the brewery and later casket factory (Akerson 1990:10).

Structure 2 Cellar - The foundation of the brick townhouse constructed and occupied by Peters, located in close proximity to the brew house, malt house and cooperage, was examined. It appeared that the foundation had collapsed into the basement (Armstrong 1983). The house later served as a residence for Clagett and his family. By 1858, the structure was used both as a dwelling and as an office. Handwritten notes on file at the MHS showed a number of soil layers were examined in the cellar. A layer of plaster sealed a layer of sand and gravel, which sealed the floor of the cellar. Below the floor was a dark layer and a layer of gravel. In addition to these intact layers were a number of disturbed strata, including gas tanks, granite piers, and various utility pipes. High status architectural elements were included in the finds: hundreds of decorated plaster fragments (some painted yellow, some with wallpaper and some with molded classical motifs) (Archaeology Trail Guide 1993:5). In the basement, archaeologists discovered three dozen perforated English-made brewing tiles and concluded that perhaps the house had been re-used as a brew house after flooding made it uninhabitable (Comer n.d.).

Malthouse - The excavations also discovered the east wall of the malt house, built as early as the late 1700s. This structure fronted on Granby Street and had extensive later additions stretching west to Jones Falls (from BCUA notes on file at MHS).

Privy - There was a small brick building with an attached semi-circle of brick that was suggested could represent a double privy, jointly built by neighbors and separated by a brick wall. It was also speculated that it was possibly a circular cistern, bisected by a later brick structure of unknown function. Artifacts from feature date to the late 18th and early 19th- centuries and include Chinese export porcelain, creamware, blue shell edge porcelain, bottle glass and a porcelain doll (BCUA notes on file at MHS). This privy was located directly behind the house and measured 4 ft in diameter and 9.5 ft. deep (Comer n.d.).

A total of 432 ceramic and glass vessels were recovered from the privy; the ceramics generally dated from the 1765 to 1820 period.

A second privy, undiscovered by the archaeologists in 1983, was discovered and vandalized in May of 1985 by three looters after fencing surrounding the site had been removed. Based on the artifacts left behind around the hole, Comer believed that this privy was slightly later than the first one, dating to the second decade of the 19th century (Campbell 1985). This later privy was located adjacent to the earlier privy.

(Written by Patricia Samford)

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